Advocates give advice to parents of special needs students ahead of upcoming school year

FOX 26 has been trying to answer many of your questions about this new school year and how it may impact your child.

Parents with special needs or immunocompromised students are concerned about sending their children to school, with each ISD has taken a different approach this year. 

With Governor Greg Abbott's order banning mask mandates and the TEA following those guidelines, many of the safeguards in place last year are no longer there or required. Parents and special education advocates we spoke with Thursday are worried.

"Super alarming to folks, we are talking about kids with health issues, disabilities that have clearly documented increase risk of serious complication, including death,’ said Daniel Garza, Attorney Cirkiel & Associates.

For parents of a special needs child or immunocompromised child, who are worried about sending their child to school, in a school district that is not offering virtual learning, there are a few options to try. 


Advocates tell us, immediately request an IEP, or here in Texas an ARD review, which is an admission review and dismissal meeting. 

"Depending on what that ARD committee does there are other avenues, one way is you dispute, is to file a written complaint with the TEA," said Louis Geigerman, Special Education Advocate."Another is you can file for a special education due process, when you file for due process - something has to happen within 15 days from the day you filed it."

LIST: Mask mandate, virtual option for Houston-area school districts

As many parents are still deciding what to do, Houston ISD made a big announcement Thursday, announcing they will now officer a virtual learning option for their most vulnerable students, ages 11 years and under and those who have a compromised immune system. 

The district says they will leverage ESSER relief funds to cover the costs, however, funding is an issue many districts are facing.


Senate Bill 15 addresses this issue, which has passed the senate, but still needs to go through the house. 

"I tell people when I talk to them, if it undermines my case, I’ll get over it. You do what you think is best for your family at the time," said Garza.

RELATED: Houston ISD to launch virtual academy for most vulnerable students, superintendent says

According to the HISD, virtual instruction will be available for the Fall Semester beginning Monday, August 30. More details about eligibility and the process to apply will be available on the district’s website on Friday, Aug. 20 at 6 p.m. 

The district is asking parents of eligible students to submit an online form and medical documentation to their campus by Wednesday, Aug. 25.